Olmert's Office Acted Alone in Barring Foreign Reporters From Gaza

Prime Minister's Office still opposed while Defense Ministry, IDF removed objections over a week ago.

The prohibition on the entry of foreign journalists into the Gaza Strip, which ended on Sunday, came from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, according to official documents obtained by Haaretz.

According to the document, the Defense Ministry and the IDF had removed their objections to the entry of foreign journalists into Gaza more than a week ago, meaning the Prime Minister's Office had been the sole entity barring them from the Strip. The document, based on a memo written by Defense Minister Ehud Barak's military secretary, Brigadier-General Eitan Dangot, was sent from the ministry to the Prime Minister's Office.

In the correspondence, Attorney Eran Yosef, director of the legal department within the defense establishment's legal advisor's office, wrote to the Prime Minister's Office that, "The Defense Minister's military secretary told us that the prime minister has ordered that foreign journalists be prevented from entering the Strip. I was told [by officials from the PMO] that there is public relations interest for not letting journalists in, though this was not a compelling enough reason to restriction in place," he said.

The letter was composed following a petition which the Foreign Press Association filed with the High Court of Justice, asking the court to order the state to let foreign reporters into Gaza. On January 11, the army announced it had lifted its objection to the entry of journalists.